Teaching Beginners To Jump Rope
Focus-Refocus - Teaching in Layers - Using Short Periods of Time Over A Longer Time Span
The brain enjoys a focus-refocus use of time. The method of teaching beginners how to jump rope helps illustrate how to apply that principle in physical education.
The Learning Rope
The Learning Rope (A Success Rope)
As a physical education teacher and jump rope coach I am always looking for ways to help my students be successful early on in the learning process to boost motivation and enthusiasm. Jumping rope for young children is a difficult skill to master because of all the movements that must be timed and coordinated. Young jumpers tend to bring the rope up to their head to get it started and end up with a slap in front of them with an opening too small to jump through. It’s hard to get them to keep their hands to their sides. The lightness of the rope is also difficult for young learners to manipulate. With this in mind, I knew if I could find a way to make the rope a little heavier and stay open during the turn young students would experience success early on and be able to transition to a regular rope once the basics are mastered. The success rope was designed by taking a piece of regular licorice style jump rope and cutting it down to a length suitable for young children (ages 5 – 7) to learn with. After cutting the rope I slipped a piece of 3/8” clear vinyl flexible plastic tubing with 1/4” diameter approximately 4 feet in length onto the rope and re-attached the handle with a washer and crimped a piece of copper tubing. I cut each success rope to 6.5’ and 7’ lengths for children in kindergarten through 1st grades. This is truly a rope for beginners. My beginners are usually 5 and 6 years old. The rope could be made in longer lengths to meet the needs of older and taller beginners.
Pictured here is what I have come to call "The Learning Rope." They are easy to construct from regular speed ropes and plastic tubing found at any hardware store. I have found that these ropes make a great tool for teaching very young children how to jump rope.
Creatively using language to teach has been something I've been doing for a number of years. It works well to connect the mind and body, help create visual images for children, integrate literacy skills, embed physical education content, and most of all help kids learn. I’ve included some of the rhymes over the years if you would like to try them out with your students. Rhyme Time In Physical Education offers more rhymes and poems to use with children
Steps For Teaching The Skills
Learning how to jump rope takes balance, coordination, and timing. It is a difficult skill to learn, especially if you try to learn it all at once. Over the years I've found a progression that seems to work very well and gets young kids jumping in no time at all. For me the best way to teach rope jumping is in short time periods over a longer time span. I never do a "jump rope unit" but there aren't many weeks when the kids don't have a jump rope in their hands at some point, but only for about 5-8 minutes. I always leave them wanting just a little bit more. I use this progression with my Kindergarten students and everyone begins with a success rope. Once a child can rhythmically jump the success rope he/she moves to a beaded rope then it's on to a speed style jump rope.
Step 1 - Pops
Kids need to learn how to pop (jump on the balls of their feet) in one place without traveling forward. When I teach popping, I don't even tell the kids it has anything to do with jumping rope. I just throw a little practice into a lesson here and there as a challenge. I'll use centers with agility ladders and hopscotch patterns to get them bouncing on the balls of their feet. Using a jump stick with kids in a circle helps with learning how to pop straight up and land in the same position instead of jumping forward. I try to get them to pop softly and go around and listen for the quite landings. I cue them to pop with their head in the high level, hands in a medium level and their feet in a low level. One great way for kids to practice this skill is by doing a class jump stick activity.
I bought a jump stick a long time ago and love using it for this purpose. It's a long flexible fiberglass rod with a handle. I can stand in the middle of the group with students on small tape marks and turn around on the floor. Students are trying to jump up and let the stick pass beneath their feet without letting it touch them. At first, they tend to want to jump forward over the stick and end up doing more of a standing broad jump than a pop. After a bit of practice with feedback they get the fact that they really only have to jump up and not forward. And needless to say they love this activity.
To pop in just one spot,
My head I must keep high.
I know my feet are down there,
I don't have to use my eye.
I push up with legs so very strong,
And pop right off the ground.
Then try to land it softly,
Without making too much sound.
I know if I bend over,
My balance I will lose.
I can pop while looking up,
At anything I choose.
Step 2 Pop-Bouncing In A Long Rope
This step is not in the video. If you have the means and equipment to do this, I would because it really gets them to focus on staying in one place. Using my volleyball standards and some extra helpers, I teach them to pop bounce over a long rope. In step 1 they learned how to pop. By using the long rope they learn to combine their pop with a bounce so the movement doesn't stop. Students add a bounce after their pop and attempt to jump the long rope without traveling forward keeping head in a high level, hands in a medium level and feet in a low level. I say, pop bounce, pop bounce, pop bounce as they practice this skill. I'll often have large polyspots out around the gym when I start the long rope progression and after taking a turn in the long rope each student goes to "pop the dots" popping 5 times on each one before he/she can come back to the rope. Additional centers can be added so that you don't end up with kids spending time waiting their turn. Another alternative would be to get some older kids who are proficient turners to come in and turn long ropes for a class period.
Step 3 - Knuckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait
This step does not include any popping or jumping and I start them all with success ropes. I teach the kids to hold the handles correctly and then teach the Knuckles-Knuckles-turn-wait. The tap-tap is just tapping knuckles together in front of the body. Why bother with this? It keeps them from taking the rope up close to the head to swing it over. By tapping it in front they start the turn by their sides. Keeping the head in a high level, they tap-tap-turn-wait with no jump. I have them practice this a few times and see if they can make the rope land at their feet.
I tap my knuckles in front,
And circle my arms to the side.
The rope goes over my head,
It has my brain as a guide.
I watch it come by my face,
In the shape if the letter U.
I let it land low and in front,
It's right there in plain view.
Step 4 - Knuckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait-Trap
To the Knuckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait we add a trap. The trap is simply rocking back on the heels when the rope comes down to allow the rope to go under the toes and become trapped when they step down. And they practice this for a bit.
Trapping the rope is quite fun,
And it's very easily done.
I watch as the rope comes around,
And then trap when it hits the ground.
Step 5 - Knuckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait-Pop
When it looks like everyone can trap the rope, we take out the trap and add the pop that they have had experience with. This still only requires one jump as they are starting the rope with a tap-tap each time. How exciting it is to get over the rope for the first time! When getting of the rope once is the goal, everyone easily attains it.
I've been patiently waiting for this,
Over that rope I will pop.
I remember all that I've learned,
And after that pop I will stop.
Step 6 - Kunckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait-Pop-Bounce-Pop-Bounce¦
You guessed it. They start out with the Kunckles-Knuckles-Turn-Wait but once they get it over their head and pop the first time, they need to keep the movement going by revisiting their pop-bounce from the long rope experience. Once they can get 2 or 3 in a row without stopping they are on their way to a long and happy life of jumping rope. This is where a lot of differentiation comes in for me. I watch closely and when I see kids who have the pattern down and can consistently get over the rope 4-5 times I give them a beaded rope. When they can consistently jump the beaded rope (10 in a row) I start them with a speed rope.
And now I'm a-popping away,
With much satisfaction I'll say.
I listened and learned,
This success I have earned.
This is a great way to play!
Click the link above to see the individual progression in action.
Click the link above to take a look at some jump rope performances.
This link provides you with portfolio sheets for basic and more advance individual skills, partner skills, long rope and double dutch. My students color in the various skills as they are able to complete 10 in a row without a miss.